Heartstrings Interview New Release Review

ALBUM REVIEW: Laney Jones’ Self-Titled Release

By Trevor Christian

Equipped with a new band, a formal education in songwriting and a firm grasp of what she doesn’t have a grasp on, Laney Jones set out to explore new sounds and her restless mind on her self-titled third release. The result is a layered, thought provoking gem of an album that strays from her traditional sound but retains and expands upon her soulful, almost old-fashioned vocals and impressive lyricism.

Jones starts the ten-track release with “Do What You Want,” a restrained argument for the pursuit of self-discovery and a satisfying life. The sound here is about as similar to her past releases as this album gets, but the track serves a more important role, as a lens through which to view the rest of the album. In “Lonesome Soul,” she confidently insists that her lifestyle is just as valid, with traditional notions of home, family and career path. In “Bad Luck Charm,” she meets criticism with nonchalance. And in “Fire Walk,” she charms others into joining her on a metaphysical journey.

In an appearance on WUSB, Jones explained that central to the album is the equalizing idea that everyone is living their life for the first time. The attitude that everyone is on an equal, unsure footing is an inspirational one, especially for folks around Jones’ age of 24. The album benefits greatly from the type of nuance a viewpoint like that allows for. Even as Jones shakes the chains of societal expectations, she doesn’t disrespect those she chooses to go in a different direction from. She avoids passing judgment in “Lonesome Soul” for those who choose to lead a more conventional life. Instead, she conveys pride that the open road she’s chosen to follow, is the right one for her and that she arrived at this decision despite the doubts of others. It’s a rejection of the rules rooted in positivity and not rebellion, and that makes it all the more relatable.

But even as someone proudly carving her own path, Jones has some doubts. The most unexpected thing she said in the interview is that the inspiration for “Who Could Love” was the anxiety that came from leaving the acoustic, peaceful and occasionally tropical world of her prior two albums. She indicated a desire to expand and change her sound without leaving behind the acoustic fans who have carried her to this point in her career. In that task, the album mostly succeeds. While many of Jones’ ‘wood and wire’ base will be perturbed by the energetic pop-driven lead single “Allston” and not all will be open to the unique feel of “Fire Walk,” there’s not too much else to balk at. The harmonica-laced “Troubled Mind” could serve as a rootsy alternative for those fans looking for a more familiar sounding song capable of existing as a single.

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Though opinion on the style may be somewhat divided among Laney Jones fans, there should be no question that the lyrics are reaching new cerebral highs. “The Simple Truth” is the most effective in this right, with Jones declaring “I can’t begin to know everything I thought I knew.” Jones explained her songwriting professor suggested that the song feature a more concrete ending, advice she wisely disregarded. After all, this album is no preachy guide to self-discovery or story with an ending; it’s an introspective 43-minute snapshot of one person’s story. The next part of that story is best told on a new album with a fresh perspective, not here. The fact that there is no simple truth seems to flow more organically from the themes explored in the earlier tracks than a concrete ending could anyway.

Even the final track, the seemingly simple “Endless Summer,” stokes that sense of unsureness. It seems fitting that an album so restless would lead to a more profound type of escapism. But more is going on here. Are those muffled last notes the sound accompanying a camera panning up to the sunset and fading or the sound of a dream fading back into reality? Does a paradise like this even exist to be found? I had no intention of asking. It takes tremendous skill to make a song mentioning relaxing on a beach — a staple of bad country music for more than a decade now — into something ambiguous and exciting.

Trevor Christian is the host of Country Pocket on WUSB. The show airs at 1pm on Thursdays on 90.1 FM on Long Island and www.wusb.fm worldwide. A recording of the most recent episode can be heard by clicking the show’s speaker icon at www.wusb.fm/station/schedule/week.

 

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